Go Tigers!

Why Westport Tigers?

Look Familar? Take a look at the cover of the 1956 Herald

Edited from a series in the Westport Crier in 1957

Did you ever wonder why we're called the Westport Tigers? This question was brought up by a group of students a few weeks ago.

We got out our old lamp, dusted it and lit it up. Setting out like Diogenes we first went to the office to Mr. D. H. Holloway, our recently retired principal, whom we thought would know the most about it.

Mr. Holloway gave us a friendly greeting and then pondered over our question. As Mr. Holloway recalled it, Westport was already called the Tigers when he became principal in 1929. However, he suggested that we contact Mr. J. L. Shouse, who was the principal he replaced, and to contact Mr. George Edwards, who used to be a coach at Westport.

The next move was to contact Mr. Edwards. Mr. Holloway had said that Mr. Edwards had left Westport to coach at Missouri University. We called the sports desk at the Kansas City Star and asked about Mr. Edwards. They told us that Mr. Edwards had retired from coaching but was still at the university holding down the office of chairman of the department of physical education. With hope we typed a short letter to Mr. Edwards asking him the pertinent question. A few days later, the reply came.

Mr. Edwards didn't know the answer. When he became the Director of Physical Education and Athletics at Westport in 1919, the teams were already called the Tigers. He also had a faint recollection that when he was a student at Central High School in 1908, the Westporters were already called by this name.

Mr. Edwards suggested that we contact Mr. R. V. Harman, who was a faculty manager of athletics and history teacher for several years. He also referred us to the past principal, Mr. J. L. Shouse, as Mr. Holloway had done.

Coming home exhausted from an idle day at school, we grabbed the black instrument and began to dial. Mr. R. V. Harmon wasn't at home, so we left our number with his wife. About an hour later, Mr. Harmon called and blew his chilly breath on our lamp. We didn’t know why we are called the Tigers. In the period of 1909 to 1927 when he served at Westport, he never recalled us being called the Tigers. In fact he said that he thought the name was adopted in the 1930s, the era of depression. He suggested that we call Mr. Reeves Peters, as he was likely to know.

Mr. Peters, who is executive secretary of the Big Seven [note that this was the year before the conference became the Big Eight], had never coached at Westport, but stored up a great amount of sports lore. When we called his home, his charming wife suggested that we try to reach him at his office. This was done.

Mr. Peters was as much in the dark as we were. He didn't know why we are called the Tigers but always thought the name was adopted when George Edwards came from M. U. and became the coach, because Edwards was a Missouri "Tiger." Mr. Peters suggested that we look through some of the year books that were published several years ago and perhaps it would be explained there.

Now we called Mr. Shouse who was principal of Westport from 1913 to 1929. He didn't know the answer either. We had always been called the Tigers when he was principal here. We told him whom we had called and he told us to call back later with a list of all the men that he thought would possibly know. We hung up after the conversation and tried to bolster the waning flame with a little coffee.

About 5 o'clock that afternoon we called the friendly Mr. Shouse again. He apologized for not having been able to supply the information and gave us a list of men to call and a wish of good luck.

Getting out the trusty old phone book we looked for the numbers of Mr. Clayton Dillingham, Mr. Lester Gregg, Mr. Louis Fisher, and Mr. J. H. Haas. We couldn't find the number of Clayton Dillingham.

So we turned our inquiring lamp into the eyes of Mr. Lester Gregg. Mr. Gregg, a graduate of 1901, said that we were called the Tigers when he went there. Back in those days, he related, there wasn't much of a team. In fact four of the members were not students at Westport or any other school. They were working men who had an interest in football and a free afternoon.

Mr. Gregg also informed us that he was the captain of the first baseball team at Westport. We were called the Tigers when he went here, but why, he couldn't tell us.

The next man on the list was Mr. Louis Fisher of the class of 1901. Mr. Fisher told a tale very similar to that of Mr. Gregg's. He reported that ever since he went to Westport the teams, although they were small because only 100 students attended the school, were called the Tigers. In 1901 only 25 people graduated and Mr. Fisher reports there aren't too many of these graduates left. Mr. Fisher did make one hopeful statement that if he found out anything about the origin of the name Tigers he would inform us.

The last man we talked to was Mr. J. H. Haas, a graduate of 1920. He states that Westport was called the Tigers in 1916 when he first started here. It is Mr. Haas conception that perhaps we adopted this name from M. U. but exactly how or where we got the name he doesn't know. Mr. Haas suggested that maybe the name was adopted when the school was first opened and that a search in the library of the Kansas City Star might reveal some old newspaper articles bearing on the subject.

The search through the Star's files did bring many interesting things to light, things which provide an insight into the deep tradition which fills the halls of Westport, but nothing which confirmed why our teams are named after Tigers. We may never know.


This is the official web site for the Westport High School, Class of 1957 Reunion Committee. Contact Jim Carras (jim@carras.com) for any comments, suggestions, corrections or recommendations.